First test for voter ID yields few snags, conclusions


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist MATT OLSEN

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on November 5, 2013 at 9:48 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 5 at 11:28 PM

AUSTIN -- For most who cast their vote in Tuesday's state constitutional and municipal elections, the requirement to show a photo identification for the first time didn't seem to slow them down.

"Not a problem at all," said Pamela Brower at the Ben Hur Shriner Center in North Austin.

Dozens of voters echoed the sentiment of voter Ellen Stohr.

"Apparently nobody's got a problem with it over here," she said.

In Travis County about half of all voters had to initial an affidavit box while checking in at the polls due to minor disparities between the name on their photo ID and the name on the voter rolls. Those who initialed the box were allowed to vote as usual and given the chance to update their voter registration information at the polling location.

Of the more than 31,000 who voted early in person in Travis County, just a handful filled out a provisional ballot because of a name issue. Roughly 30 provisional ballots were cast in total for various reasons during early voting. Provisional voters have until Nov. 12 to return to the county elections office and rectify whatever problem was presented at the polls.

Despite the statistically smooth rollout of the new law, many are still opposed to it. One voter who didn't wish to be identified told KVUE they felt the process was "oppressive," and felt it unfairly targeted women voters who may have changed their name due to a marriage or divorce.

"Even though I'm not affected by it, I'm not a fan," said Tim Traini, a regular voter who said the process went smoothly.

Despite record turnout over the most recent state constitutional election in 2011, turnout remains in the single digits across most of the state. Early voting peaked in Travis County at 5.64 percent.

Election officials across Central Texas say constitutional elections are usually composed largely of regular voters, who by and large are familiar with voting procedures and come prepared.

Stohr said it wasn't a single issue that brought her to the polls, telling KVUE, "I always vote. I feel like if you're going to be a citizen, you know you should vote."

"To some extent I do think it's helpful that this particular group of voters, who tends to be our diehard, vote no matter what group of voters, is our first batch that helps us implement voter ID," Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said Monday. "They will go and they will tell their friends and their coworkers all about it, so we're going to get some pass through benefit by having this first election."

"By the time we get to the primaries, it will be a little bit different group of voters, but once again a real solid turnout group," said DeBeauvoir. "That's all very good news before we get to a gubernatorial election where we have an election where the general public will be more interested and they will turn out. All that's going to help get the word out to everyone."

It's still too early to tell how the law would affect voters in a major election with a large turnout of voters who generally skip the smaller elections. In meantime Travis County Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant has turned up a troubling number.

"My concern is that the secretary of state issued a list of 37,000 registered voters in Travis County who do not have a state ID," Elfant told media Monday during a visit from Texas Secretary of State John Steen.

An estimated 1.4 million registered voters statewide don't have the right kind of photo ID needed to vote. A federal court determined minority voters would be most at risk when it ruled to block the law on the grounds it was intentionally discriminatory in 2012.

Registered voters who don't have the necessary ID can obtain a free Election Identification Certificate from the Texas Department of Public Safety. So far only 121 have been issued. On Monday Steen declined to say whether that number is a concern.

"All we can do is work as hard as we can to get the word out about it," said Steen. "As I said, the goal of all of this is to have every eligible voter vote and that vote be counted."

Elfant says his next step will be to send informational postcards to all 37,000 Travis County voters listed as not having the necessary ID.

Now administrators across the state will begin analyzing data collected on polling issues related to the rollout in preparation for the next test.

Go here for full election results.

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